Eclectic Curiosity

BIF-3 – Reflections

Posted on October 12th, 2007, by Steve Hardy in Archives, BIF-3. No Comments

If you’ve read the last couple posts it should be pretty apparent just how fantastic an event like BIF-3 is. It’s really two days of concentrated inspiration. And what makes it so inspiring is that so many different and disparate ideas are unleashed upon the willing audience all at once. Just when one brilliant speaker finishes telling her story another one is already up telling his. The cumulative effect is a cocktail of new learning, mind stretching, and perhaps a couple aha moments. Not to mention, there’s ample opportunity to meet and interact with some incredibly smart and open-minded people.

BIF-3 was great. I felt this year was a bit more uneven compared to BIF-2 last year – which really raised the bar high – but overall this is definitely a first-class gathering. BIF-3 was definitely more technology focused, and it covered it well, but I think there was bit less stretch this time round. I appreciated the introduction of interviews and panels this year, however I can’t say I was a big fan of them. There’s just something more genuine when it’s simply the storyteller and their story. That said, I could’ve watched co-host Walt Mossberg and IBM’s Irving Wladawsky-Berger chat for hours. Similarly for Mark Cuban.

For me there were definitely some clear favourites. My award for best overall goes to Clayton Christensen. Hands down. He blew me away with his brilliance and eloquence. He’s a big man physically but now I see better why he figures so prominently in the general discourse on business. I can’t wait to read his books on health care and education, two areas that can really use some serious innovative help.

Smoothest presentation would be Matt Mason’s talk about piracy. If his forthcoming book is anywhere near as polished as his pitch, it’s sure to be a best-seller. It’s a compelling and highly relevant idea to begin with and his background makes him a perfect spokesman for it.

Most unexpectedly enjoyable story was the one about the Bostitch HurriQuake nails. Proof that innovation can happen, and should happen more often, with typical, ubiquitous, old, and seemingly boring things. It helped that the story was told by someone as humourous as Denise Nemchev. They’ve got a great ambassador!

Same goes for Providence police chief Dean Esserman. He’s got a knack for storytelling. Listening to him you realize just how important a skill that is for someone in his position.

There were many ideas shared but a few thoughts in particular stuck out…
-Ellen Levy: start with good questions
-Steven Johnson: we need to build hunch-supportive environments
-Eric Bonabeau: the prepared mind should favour chance
-Clayton Christensen: a business unit is designed not to evolve
-Joseph Coughlin: the future will be female

The whole event is organized by the Business Innovation Factory, an independent non-profit incubator with the goal of growing Rhode Island as a real-world innovation laboratory. A compelling idea and one that an outsider like me can see is taking hold. In the world of ideas, a small state can do big things. No doubt the profile of of these Collaborative Innovation Summits contributes greatly to their cause.

To wrap, I’d just like send a big thank you to Chris Flanagan, organizer of BIF’s prolific blogjam, for inviting me. She and all of the folks at BIF are wonderfully friendly and energetic people and it was a tremendous pleasure to hang out with them again at their “dinner party”.

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